The history of Azerbaijan-NATO relationship dates back to March 1992 when Azerbaijan together with some Central and Eastern European countries, joined a newly established consultative forum – the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), which was transformed into the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council later in 1997.
The cornerstone of the substantive Partnership between Azerbaijan and NATO was laid down on 4 May 1994 when the late President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev signed the Partnership for Peace Framework Document.
The partnership with NATO serves Azerbaijan’s strategic goal of integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Political dialogue, participation in the NATO-led operations, emerging security challenges, and practical cooperation on broad range of issue with a special focus on defence reform constitute main directions of Azerbaijan’s partnership with NATO. The matter of Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation on the basis of mutual interests aimed at the elimination of instability, conflicts and threats is attracted in the National Security Concept and Military Doctrine of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan actively uses relevant partnership tools to achieve goals reflected in the PfP Framework Document as well as bilateral cooperation documents. The PfP Presentation Document (1996), Planning and Review Process (1997) and Individual Partnership Action Plan (2004) Documents are the main national papers that define key principles and goals of Azerbaijan’s individual partnership with NATO. Azerbaijan reiterated in these documents its readiness for cooperation with NATO in the areas such as security and defence sector reforms, developing military forces according to NATO standards, participation in the NATO-led operations, energy security, civil emergency planning, addressing the emerging security challenges as well as science, environment and public diplomacy.
In the framework of its Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme based upon the PfP Framework Document of 1996 Azerbaijan has been participating annually on average 200 events. Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme enables Azerbaijan to benefit from various activities such as courses, exercises, conferences organised by the NATO Allies and some Partners.
Another important mechanism is the Planning and Review Process, which is designed to help Partners identify and evaluate forces and capabilities which might be made available for multinational operations and exercises in conjunction with NATO forces. It also helps Partners to develop defence planning practices using NATO experience. Azerbaijan has undertaken a number of ‘Partnership Goals’ on defence planning and preparation of forces for peace support operations.
The Individual Partnership Action Plan, which Azerbaijan joined in 2004, enables to hold regular political dialogue, systematise bilateral cooperation as overarching tool and agree on new cooperation activities of mutual interest in a more flexible manner. Azerbaijan successfully completed the first (2005-2007) and second (2008-2010) cycles of its IPAP and is currently working on the third one (2012-2013).
Azerbaijan conducts political dialogue with NATO on a broad range of issues of common concern based on the PfP principles. Within the political dialogue, which is held in different formats and levels, the issues like partnerships, regional security, Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, operations, contribution to Afghanistan, energy security etc. are the matters of bilateral discussions and consultations. The high-level political dialogue based on mutual understanding promotes progress in the practical cooperation.
Participation in the NATO-led operations
Proceeding from the indivisibility of security Azerbaijan participates in the NATO-led peace support operations which are sanctioned by the UN Security Council resolutions.
Azerbaijan participated in the NATO’s KFOR operation in 1999-2008.
Azerbaijan has been participating in the NATO-led ISAF operation in Afghanistan since 2003. It has repeatedly expanded its participation in the ISAF. Currently 94 servicemen are serving within the ISAF. Azerbaijan actively participates in all relevant international political processes aimed at promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and hold regular contacts with the Afghan government.
Azerbaijan’s contribution to the operations consist of political, military, logistic support/air and land transit, as well as trainings, humanitarian mine action and financial aid to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund.
Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy in partnership with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy has been organizing two-week training course on good governance for the government representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan since 2010. The third training of this type was successfully held on “State and Nation Building in Transition" in November, 2012 in Baku and was attended by twenty representatives from different government agencies of Afghanistan. In November 2010 Ministry of National Security of the Republic of Azerbaijan held two-week training course on counter terrorism for the officials of Afghan security institutions. In November 2011 State Border Service of Azerbaijan with support of NATO held a seminar for the representatives of Afghanistan and Central Asian countries on border security and drug trafficking. Number of training offers by Azerbaijan is being currently considered by Afghan Government.
ANAMA continues to be actively engaged in humanitarian mine action in Afghanistan. ANAMA conducted trainings and mentoring for Afghan experts on mine clearance, donated office equipment, printed and delivered books and manuals for schools on mine awareness.
Azerbaijan has declared its support to the post-2014 NATO mission in Afghanistan.
Defence and security sector reform
Azerbaijan’s National Security Concept (2007) defines the goals, principles and objectives of the country’s defence policy. It continues to be the basis for the development of other strategic policy documents and has served as a basis for the subsequent elaboration of Military Doctrine (2010) that defines the missions of the Armed Forces more comprehensively based on the strategic environment and threat assessment.
The main goal in the reform of this area is to develop rationally sized, democratically controlled defence and security sector using advanced international practice, including experience of NATO countries. As a result of the defence and security sector reforms, Azerbaijan is capable to adequately respond to the emerging security challenges.
Transformation of the Armed Forces, including restructuring in accordance with NATO standards, plays significant role in overall defence reforms. Transition of the armed forces onto the new J/G/S structure plays significant role in overall transformation process and lays basis for conducting defence reforms. At the lower level (corps and brigades) the reorganisation in accordance with new structure has been completed. This transformation has been based on the experience shared with a number of NATO nations. Since 01 August 2009, Ministry of Defence and General Staff has been reorganised in accordance with new structure.
To complement PARP process and to achieve higher level of interoperability with NATO forces, Azerbaijan continues to use training, evaluation and feedback tools of the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC) Evaluation and Feedback (E&F) programme. Azerbaijan used the OCC process to train and evaluate an infantry company. This company successfully conducted a NATO Evaluation level 1in May 2008 and passed a Self-Evaluation Level 2 in October 2009. In 2010 Azerbaijan declared an infantry battalion to the OCC E&F process and successfully conducted an OCC level 1 self-evaluation on 7- 16 October 2011, which was observed by the experts from NATO, US and Turkey. A NATO evaluation level 1 was successfully conducted from 18-24 June 2012. Self-evaluation level 2 is planned in the course of 2013 and NEL2 in the 2014. In longer term, Azerbaijan is planning to complete the training and equipment of the brigade so it can sustain an entire infantry battalion on operations including full combat support and combat service support by the end of 2015.
Azerbaijan puts special focus on the improvement of the training and education of the Armed Forces. In the framework of cooperation programmes with NATO and Allies education and training represents an area where the MOD has been making major efforts and good progress and has developed a plan. Since the mid 90-s, with the support of Turkey, Azerbaijan has modified military training and education system and has been receiving NATO’s and Allied Nations’ assistance within the IPAP framework. The Military Academy, the Military College, and the Training and Education Centre, which includes the National PfP Training Centre are already using a Turkish-based curriculum, which itself is based on NATO standards. Since 2002 all officers graduating from the Military Academy have been educated in accordance with these curricula. During 2008-2013 Joint Azerbaijan-NATO Education and Training Action Plan has been developed and being implemented. This comprehensive plan primarily serves the integration of NATO standards in the military education system, use of modern methodologies, and supports the defence reforms.
The State Border Service of Azerbaijan is involved in cooperation with NATO with the main focus on getting expertise assistance for its transformation into law-enforcement body and improving border control practices in the context of anti-terrorism.
Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are also involved in cooperation with NATO in terms of getting NATO’s expertise assistance for the ongoing transformation efforts of the Troops. Besides, perspectives of cooperation in preparation of units of the Internal Troops for participation in the international operations are currently being explored.
Civil emergency planning
Civil Emergency Planning (CEP) occupies a prominent place in the cooperation of Azerbaijan with NATO. Over the last years, Azerbaijan has steadily been increasing its CEP cooperation with NATO. Multilateral interaction within the EAPC and bilateral cooperation in the framework of IPAP are viewed as mutually reinforcing tools to this end.
Azerbaijan actively contributes to CEPC and Planning Groups meetings in EAPC format. This format provides a useful forum for the exchange of views, building mutual understanding and developing tools and guidelines relevant to national practice.
Another tangible benefit for Azerbaijan is bilateral cooperation with NATO CEP. Priorities for bilateral interaction are focused on implementation of respective objectives in Azerbaijan’s IPAP Document. The establishment of the Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) in 2005, which brought relevant agencies under the authority of a single ministry, further enhanced bilateral cooperation. In November 2008, the NATO CEP Advisory Support Team (AST) visited Azerbaijan to advise on the capacity development of the MES. The recommendations developed in their report serve as guidance for areas of expertise assistance, cooperation and concrete measures.
A more practical dimension for partners is an opportunity to participate in CEP-related exercises. In this context, Azerbaijan is interested in field exercises and “table-top” exercises conducted under the auspices of EADRCC. Azerbaijani teams participated in “UUSIMAA-2008”, “Jetisu-2009”, “CODRII-2011” and “Georgia-NATO 2012” conducted respectively in Finland, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Georgia. These exercises enhance practical skills and provide opportunity for live exchange of experiences.
Science, environment and humanitarian issues
Azerbaijan-NATO partnership includes not only purely defence related issues, but also broader issues like science, environment and de-mining.
NATO implemented a 2.2 million USD project to dispose 1400 metric tonnes of rocket fuel oxidizer in Azerbaijan in 2006-2008. The NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) was designated as the project's executing agency and in two years staring from 2006 a mobile mélange treatment plant constructed in Azerbaijan neutralized in Alat (Garadagh district) and Mingachevir respectively 950 and 350 tons of mélange. With a NATO/PfP Trust Fund project huge progress is being made to clear 4.400 hectares area from contamination with the Soviet era unexploded ordnances. A substantial part of the area has already been cleared.
Upon the request of Azerbaijan a new PfP Trust Fund project aiming at addressing the UXO problem in Saloglu was inaugurated in December 2005. NAMSA was designated the executing agency and Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) was awarded as the project contractor. The project aimed at locating and destroying all surface and immediate subsurface UXOs and explosive hazards in and around the former military base and consequently making the Saloglu site completely safe for local population. The project was implemented in three phases between 2005 and 2011. It was closed with ceremonies held in Baku and Saloglu in July 2011 and at a NATO Political and Partnerships Committee (PPC) meeting in October 2011. Under this six-year long project 5,7 sq. km area was cleared, more than 620 thousand pieces of UXO were destroyed. Considering this project a high priority the Government of Azerbaijan provided its continued support to the project and together with Turkey, the Lead Nation made substantial efforts to involve donors during all three phases. The total cost of the project was 3,2 million euros. Azerbaijan covered 50% of the costs for the third phase.
Given that a considerable portion of the national territories remains contaminated with mines and UXOs, ANAMA is determined to continue the mine clearance endeavor to make the country completely free from this perilous problem. To this end, it initiated to launch a new Trust Fund project which would be implemented in three phases to clean 64 sq.km from mines and UXOs. The first phase of the Project (names as Jeyranchel Clearance Project or JCP) covers 19 sq.km out of totally contaminated area. The first phase of the project is anticipated to end in August 2014. Upon completion of the first phase the Project will extend to other remaining affected territories (45 sq.km). The preparation works for the second phase has already been started. The Azerbaijani Government contributed 50% of the total 3,090,000 EUR project cost for the first phase.
Joint scientific projects are currently carried out to develop scientific solutions to the environmental problems in Azerbaijan. NATO’s Virtual Silk Highway project plays a valuable role in providing high-speed internet connection for Azerbaijani higher education and research institutions and their integration in the European scientific and education community.
Azerbaijani educational institutions and research centers continued to benefit from internet connectivity provided by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology through the “Black Sea Interconnection” project which is continuation of the Virtual Silk Highway project.
Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences established initial seismic database to assess seismic risk at urban areas. Also, it strengthened capacities to assess the seismicity risk along the oil and gas pipelines. In that view, further works have been carried out under the project on assessing seismic risk along the “South Caucasus – East Turkey” energy corridor.
Azerbaijan takes active measures to prevent pollution in the Caspian Sea and eliminate its effects. Azerbaijan continued to conduct geographic analyses of bio-factors and pollution sources and information gathering on the status of the Caspian Sea ecology and industry.
Azerbaijan attaches a great importance to the raising of public awareness and support for its Euro-Atlantic integration course, which constitutes one of the strategic goals of its foreign and security policy, and for its partnership with NATO in particular.
Government of Azerbaijan supports the NATO International School of Azerbaijan (NISA) which is a unique initiative of the Azerbaijani youth. With dozens of students from Azerbaijan and abroad annually participating in its various activities the NISA is developing as a solid education, research and training centre. Biannual NISA trainings on various security topics (energy security, border security, protection of critical infrastructures, emergency management, peacekeeping operations, cyber security, maritime security, Middle East, international crisis, etc) are the effective forums on international security issues.
NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division supports public diplomacy events organized by NISA, Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, Euro-Atlantic Centre. ADA students, NISA alumni, opinion formers from Azerbaijan annually visit NATO HQ and participate at briefings.
Emerging security challenges
Emerging security challenges is another subject of cooperation and consultations between Azerbaijan and NATO.
Azerbaijan actively participates in the EAPC activities on energy infrastructure protection and countering terrorist threats in these fields. As a chairman of the EAPC informal working group on critical energy infrastructure protection, Azerbaijan held a meeting of the Group in October 2011 open to all NATO and partner nations. Two experts from Azerbaijan briefed on Azerbaijan’s experience on critical infrastructure protection. The meeting and possible follow-on activities aim at enhancing common operational understanding on terrorist threats against energy infrastructure and making PAP-T more operational in this field.
Azerbaijan is interested to cooperate with NATO in the field of cyber security. In its PARP document for 2012 Azerbaijan has declared two partnership goals on cyber security. Azerbaijan cooperates with the NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Program for organizing cyber security related projects and events.
As an initiator of key energy projects in the region, Azerbaijan is working closely with NATO member states on this issue. Given its geographic location, Azerbaijan is interested in being a reliable, effective and stable energy producer and transit country for European market, via new and existing transport corridors.
As a reliable partner of NATO, Azerbaijan is ready to continue its efforts and strengthen this partnership.